'Utter disgrace': Outrage as IPL ploughs on amid COVID catastrophe

David Warner and his IPL counterparts, pictured here in the IPL biosecurity bubble.
David Warner and his IPL counterparts continue to play amid India's COVID catastrophe. Image: Instagram/Getty

There's disbelief around the world as the world's richest cricket tournament continues to plough on in India despite the country's COVID-19 catastrophe.

On Tuesday, Indian Premier League chiefs sought to reassure foreign stars in the tournament that they are "totally safe", even as the country battles a devastating coronavirus surge.

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With more than 350,000 cases and 2,750 deaths per day, three Australian players have left their IPL teams in recent days.

Others still in India admit they are on edge over the deadly surge.

"We understand that there are a few apprehensions and concerns regarding the general situation in India and the withdrawals of certain cricketers," said acting Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chief Hemang Amin in an email sent to players and coaches.

"We completely respect the decision taken by the players and extend our support to them in every way.

"At the same time, we would also assure you that you are totally safe within the bubble."

But the BCCI's decision to continue the IPL amid the country's COVID catastrophe has sparked outrage and disbelief.

Funeral pyres of Covid-19 fatalities, pictured here burning at a crematorium in New Delhi, India.
Funeral pyres of Covid-19 fatalities burn at a crematorium in New Delhi, India. (Image: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

England football great Gary Linekar summed up the situation on Twitter.

"I love the IPL as much as any cricket fan, but it seems so terribly wrong for it to continue given the Covid catastrophe that’s currently occurring in India," he said.

"People are dying faster than runs are being scored for crying out loud."

Piers Morgan was also among thousands calling for the IPL to be cancelled.

Aussie stars left stranded after flights suspended

Meanwhile, the federal government has halted all passenger flights from India to Australia until May 15, clouding the return of Australia's best cricketers.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Tuesday that direct commercial and repatriation flights from India had been suspended because of growing COVID-19 cases in hotel quarantine, while indirect flights would also not be possible.

The federal government will review the measures closer to May 15 as they seek to help approximately 8,000 Australians return home from India, where the army has been called in to help overwhelmed hospitals amid a deadly second wave of coronavirus infections.

The IPL is scheduled to finish on May 31, while the regular season ends on May 24, so any extension of the travel ban would create substantial headaches for Cricket Australia.

The prime minister made it clear Australians involved in the IPL - a list headlined by Pat Cummins, David Warner and Steve Smith - would not jump the queue for repatriation flights whenever they resume.

"It's done on vulnerability," Morrison told reporters.

"They travelled there privately under those arrangements, this wasn't part of an Australian tour.

"They're under their own resources and they'll be using those resources to, I'm sure, see them return to Australia."

Andrew Tye recently cut short his IPL stint, returning to Australia while it was still viable to do so via a commercial flight.

Compatriots Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson intended to do the same, but are yet to touch down in Australia.

Cricket Australia (CA) could yet arrange a charter flight for its IPL contingent, but that would require sign-off from federal and state governments.

"We will assist where possible," CA said in a joint statement with the players' union.

"We will continue to liaise closely with the Australian government."

with agencies

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